April 29, 2021

Shared parental leave policy is “chronically failing,” according to campaigners

Shared parental leave policy is “chronically failing,” according to campaigners

Campaigners, trade unions and economists have united in saying that shared parental leave (SPL) is a “deeply flawed” policy and it should be replaced with paid leave for mothers and fathers. The call for a better system of paid leave for both parents comes six years after the coalition government introduced shared parental leave as its flagship policy. It was meant to aid gender equality and make parents’ lives easier but the take-up has not been high.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) secretary general, Frances O’Grady, said that the UK has some of the worst-paid maternity and paternity leave and that both parents deserve time to care and bond with their child without having to compromise. “Without meaningful reforms, many dads won’t be able to afford to take time off work when their kids are born. And women will continue to shoulder an unequal share of care and be penalised.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly highlighted the need to increase gender equality in childcare. IZA World of Labor contributors Almudena Sevilla and Sarah Smith analyzed real-time data collected via online interviews with parents where employment and childcare pre-and post-Covid-19 was discussed. They found that there was a “childcare gap” in that there is a “greater amount of childcare [done by] mothers”.

“Families with young children (aged <=12) have been doing the equivalent of a 40-hour working week of additional childcare […]. Most of the burden of additional childcare has been on mothers, who perform around ten hours more childcare per week than fathers,” they write in their opinion piece.

“The pandemic has confirmed what we’ve all known for a long time—working mothers are on their knees,” Rosalind Bragg, director of Maternity Action, said. “One way to redress the balance would be making it as easy as possible for fathers and partners to take on their share of the parenting load starting from birth.”

At the moment fathers are eligible for two weeks’ paternity paid leave at £148.68 but 24% don’t qualify for it. In comparison, statutory maternity pay lasts 39 weeks for women and it includes six weeks of “enhanced pay.”

Read Almudena Sevilla and Sarah Smith’s opinion piece Childcare during Covid-19.